“It is a wonderful city, this, Douglas,” she said. “It has made a great man of you and a happy woman of Cissy.”
“And you?” he asked gently.
“Well, it has taught me a little tolerance, I think,” she said. “You know we Strongs are hill folk, our loves and hates are lasting and perhaps narrow. I have been a mistaken woman, but I have much to be thankful for. I came to my senses before any one was made to suffer through me. So now, good night, and good-by, Douglas. You bear me no ill-will, I know?”
“Not a shred,” he answered, taking her hand into his. “You will miss Cissy, I am afraid.”
She sighed, and he saw something in her eyes which haunted him for long afterwards.
“Some of us,” she said, “are born to be lonely—to see those whom we care for drift away. There’s no help for it, I’m afraid. So good-by, Douglas, and good fortune to you.”
The door closed sharply upon her sob. Douglas walked slowly away westwards.
A CALL BEFORE THE CURTAIN
They passed out from the stuffy atmosphere of the dimly-lit theatre to the sunlit squares and streets, Drexley and Douglas arm in arm, the former voluble, Douglas curiously silent. For it had been an afternoon of events, the final rehearsal of a play of which great things were expected, and which was to take London by storm. Drexley had always had faith in his friend. He believed him to be a clever, even a brilliant, writer—witty, original, unique in his own vivid and picturesque style. But even Drexley had never believed him capable of such work as this. Without the accessories of costume, and lights, and continuity, the story which flashed out into the shadows of the dark and empty stalls from the lips of those human puppets, wholly fascinated and completely absorbed him. Douglas had forsaken all traditions. He had been fettered with only a small knowledge of the stage and its workings, and he had escaped the fatal tribute to the conventionalities paid by almost every contemporary playwright. It was a sweet and passionate story which leaped out from the lips of those fashionably dressed but earnest men and women, grandly human, exquisitely told. Here and there the touches were lurid enough, but there was plenty of graceful relief, every sentence seemed pervaded with that unerring sense of the truthful and artistic which was the outcome of the man’s genius. Drexley’s words were ready enough in the open streets with the fresh wind in their faces and the sunshine streaming around. In the theatre and immediately afterwards in the manager’s room, where a famous actress had dispensed tea, and compliments and congratulations were the order of the day, he had been spellbound and silent.
“Douglas,” he cried, “already you are known and recognised. To-morrow you will be famous. You are a genius, man. Nothing like this or anything approaching it has been produced for years.”